Activism through lived experience; A ground breaking new anti-poverty degree from Staffordshire University

Staffordshire University is a Civic University and this new degree is an exciting new way to join us, learn and study with us tackling poverty head on from the start!

Poverty has risen statistically and in the public’s awareness. Recent public campaigns from Marcus Rashford focussing on food poverty have raised awareness, as have research around the disproportionate effect that Covid has had on lower income populations. We can talk about food poverty, fuel poverty or data poverty but lets be clear – poverty is poverty. We can call it by another name but living in poverty is about poorer health outcomes, poorer educational opportunities and most fundamentally its about poorer opportunities to speak out, to be heard and to be listened to.

This new degree came from the idea of finding what Ruth Lister describes as voice – space for people with lived experience of poverty. The term lived experience is a spiky one and can critiqued as tokenism – another buzz word, its not. At is core, the term lived experience is actually about voice and recognising knowledge and expertise comes in valuable lived forms. Academic knowledge is only one form of knowing; emotional, experiential and practical knowing is a valuable form of expertise. It is time that academic institutions recognise knowledge in all its forms, Staffordshire University is seeking to just this in its new degree; Action on Poverty and Hardship.

The idea behind the degree is that its co-produced with local and national partners, that it is framed around valuing the knowledge gained by lived experience of poverty and in its practical activism it seeks to challenge epistemic injustice.

In centring this new degree around practical activism with voluntary and community sector partners, in holding at its core the knowledge held in lived experience this new degree seeks to be something a bit special, a unique combination of activism and knowledge sharing, learning and teaching in collaboration with students in anti-poverty projects.

Students that join us will be supported and nurtured to engage in local change making, learning in partnership with voluntary sector organisations. Students will have the opportunity to undertake practical work based learning challenges, reflect in portfolios on their trauma informed anti-oppressive practice and learn about poverty from a mixture of experts by experience and academic activists

Our vision is that these students will shape the course alongside our voluntary sector steering group made up of; leading research institutions, high profile think tanks and local anchor institutions in Stoke on Trent. Graduates of this course will start their journey as anti-poverty activists, taking on leadership roles within the voluntary sector and ultimately shape both local and national anti-poverty agendas.

Dr Katy Goldstraw BA (Hons) MSc Phd pgchpe FHEA FRSA, Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care

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